Reader: “The day of judgment is coming,”
Response: “burning like a furnace.”
Scripture: Malachi 3:16-4:6
Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.
“They will be my people,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord,”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
We’ve said that often prophets have a rough task with a tough audience. Such was the case for Malachi. In his congregation of Israelites were the disillusioned, the cynical, the callous, the dishonest, the apathetic, the doubters, the skeptics, the arrogant, the defiant, and the downright evil persons. I said it was a tough crowd! All of those people appear in the four chapters of this book. Can you imagine preaching to this collection of humans? In spite of these malcontents, there were a few faithful people whose names were written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:17). On the day of judgment they will be spared. Malachi speaks very plainly that a day of final judgment is coming for everyone who has ever lived. For the righteous who have put their trust in God comes abundant blessing and great joy, and for the wicked as described above, being burned up like straw. Malachi closes his message with the words we referred to a couple of days ago. He makes a final appeal for obedience to the Law of Moses, which every Jew knew. He then points the people forward to the coming of Elijah in heralding the great and dreadful day of the Lord and his message to repent and turn to the Savior or . . . receive the curse, which implies total destruction.
By now you might be getting tired of hearing about the coming judgment and the end of the world as we know it. Come on, Dan, let’s have some more Christmasy thoughts! I’m just writing about what the Bible says. Maybe the Scripture’s great concern with repentance and dealing with sin is that it is important to God! It may be that in general, we view Christmas and the birth of Jesus as a singular event disassociated from the greater Story of God. The result can be that we trivialize the nativity as a sweet sentimental story, kind of like a sacred “Good Night Moon.” For sure, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus with great joy and singing. Don’t hold back, but be aware the baby in the manger is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world through his own death.
Music: “Behold the Lamb of God” from Messiah Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir
O God, who hast proven Thy love for mankind by sending us Jesus Christ our Lord, and hast illumined our human life by the radiance of his presence, I give Thee thanks for this Thy greatest gift. For my Lord’s arrival in Bethlehem, for his journey to the Temple of his Father, for his days upon earth, for the record of his deeds of love, for the words he spoke for my guidance and help, for his forgiving my sin, for his obedience unto death, for his victory over death, for his ascension to his Father’s right hand, for his intercession on my behalf, and for the presence of his Spirit with me now, I thank thee, O God. And may this season be one of a more profound alleluia! This we pray in the name of the Baby who took away the sins of the world. Amen. ―A Diary of Private Prayer, p.29, adapted Daniel Sharp